Plain English summary
The REACT project evaluates the usefulness and value for money of an intervention to promote physical activity in retired people aged 65 and over who have low levels of physical activity and who are already showing some signs of limited mobility.
We propose to adapt the successful LIFE intervention programme from the USA, which has been shown to be effective in improving mobility and physical functioning. Our previous development work, which involved extensive consultation with a network of service users and service providers as well as charities, researchers and experts in physical activity promotion, selected the LIFE programme as the best bet for use in the UK to promote physical activity with a wide range of older people living in different areas and with different cultural backgrounds. We will adapt the LIFE intervention for use in leisure and community centres in three locations during low cost daytime hours. The programme takes full account of the needs of UK older adults, particularly those in more deprived/less well-off communities.
REACT is a 12-month activity programme for inactive people aged 65 and over designed to help them get started with activity, become fitter, and improve their health and well-being. As well as improving heart fitness, strength and balance, it emphasises enjoyment of activities, provides opportunities for rewarding social contact, and helps people develop skills for long term changes in their lifestyle. A novel element is the "ambassadors" programme that provides the opportunity for people who have taken part to get involved as programme recruiters, supporters, or in helping other participants to get involved in activities in the local community.
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We will conduct a pilot study to confirm that the programme can be delivered as planned and that the trial procedures work well. If we have problems with recruitment, obtaining follow-up measurements, or delivering the intervention we will stop the trial. Otherwise the study will carry on to become a full-scale evaluation study. In total this will involve 768 people. We will ask them to sign up to either join our REACT intervention programme or to receive a less intensive intervention (including information, vouchers for taster sessions at local centres and attendance at two sessions with a healthy living education group).
All participants will complete tests at the start of the study and then again at 6 months, 12 months and 24 months. This will include a set of three tests of physical functioning (a balance test, a sit-to-stand test and a walking speed test), wearing a small device that assesses their physical activity for a week, and some questionnaires to measure health status and mental health. Participants will be invited to contribute to discussion groups, where we will get feedback about whether the proposed intervention and evaluation methods were acceptable and how they might be improved.
The work will be conducted by a team of researchers and practitioners who are experienced in promoting physical activity in older people and in conducting this type of research.
The proposed research is important because physical fitness makes a huge difference to older people s mobility and quality of life. We currently do not have any interventions targeting functional ability in older people that have been shown to be effective and to provide good value for money.
For the scientific summary, click here